Philadelphia Street diagonal crossing to end
It will be the end of an era.
On Thursday, diagonal pedestrian crossings at Indiana’s landmark Philadelphia and Seventh streets will cease.
The intersection now is the only signal-protected one in Indiana where vehicle traffic stops in all four directions simultaneously to allow pedestrians to cross, even diagonally through the middle of the intersection.
But on Thursday, Philly and Seventh will become like every other intersection in Indiana. Pedestrians will have to cross the streets only perpendicularly. And they’ll have to be alert for vehicles making turns while they’re in the crosswalks.
“You’ll have to be aware of your surroundings,” cautioned Sgt. Frank Kovalcik of the Indiana Borough Police Department.
A benefit of the change will be more time for vehicles to travel through the intersection during each cycle of the traffic signal, and a more efficient flow of traffic all along the Philadelphia Street corridor. But the change will take some getting used to because diagonal crossings have been permitted at the main intersection in the downtown business district for as long as many pedestrians can remember.
The decision to eliminate diagonal crossings was made nearly three years ago. In the summer of 2011, Indiana council and borough administrators were looking for a way to create room along North Seventh Street for a “people space” — a gathering area with benches, tables and trees suitable for concerts, festivals and other outdoors events — as part of the streetscape enhancement project along Philadelphia Street.
Council retained HRG Inc., an engineering firm in Cranberry Township, to study the intersection and suggest how to fit the plaza-like setting into the downtown business district.
The engineering firm’s proposals included eliminating the left-turn lane for southbound traffic on North Seventh Street, a recommendation that has already been implemented.
HRG also recommended elimination of the exclusive pedestrian crossing phase of the traffic signal at Philly and Seventh and elimination of the diagonal pedestrian crossings. The engineers said about 17 seconds will be saved in each cycle of the traffic signal by eliminating the exclusive pedestrian crossing phase and its diagonal crossings. That extra time will be distributed among the traffic flows in each direction.
Eliminating the exclusive pedestrian crossing phase at Philly and Seventh and making the crossing times there the same as at other intersections will also improve traffic flow all along the Philadelphia Street corridor, where traffic signals are synchronized with each other, according to the engineers.
Council approved HRG’s suggestions in September 2011.
A new traffic signal will be installed Monday in the intersection, and — weather permitting — the diagonal crossing lines on the pavement will be painted over on Thursday.
For years, pedestrians have been given audible cues when to step off the curb at the intersection. First it was an electronic bell, then a “Tweety bird” sound and now it’s a recording by celebrity impersonator Rich Little: “This is Jimmy Stewart. The walk signal is on for all crossings. Take your time.”
After Thursday, pedestrians waiting to cross the intersection will hear a new recording, but still with the same familiar folksy drawl: “This is Jimmy Stewart. … Wait for the walk signal, will ya? And when you cross, if you run into somebody, don’t stop and talk.”
[PHOTO: Pedestrians for years have been able to cross Indiana’s Philadelphia and Seventh streets intersection diagonally. That will end Thursday. (Tom Peel/Gazette)]